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Politics and Government

NAACP Urges S.C. To Remove Confederate Flag From State Capitol


The mass shooting in Charleston has revived a debate over the Confederate flag in South Carolina. The flag flies on the grounds of the state capitol in Columbia. For some, it's a symbol of Southern history. For others, it represents slavery and racism. As NPR's Jeff Brady reports, today civil rights activists called on state leaders to remove the flag.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: The Confederate flag has long been a center of controversy in South Carolina, and now after Wednesday's shooting, it comes up a lot on the streets of Charleston.

RASHEED ALI: It used to be on top of the state house but now they moved it to the side.

BRADY: Rasheed Ali is wearing a bright yellow NAACP baseball cap and shirt. He points to a compromise 15 years ago that moved the flag from the dome to capitol grounds.

ALI: So it's like a Klansman having on his hood and he say, OK, I won't wear it in the house, so he holding it in his hand - same difference.

BRADY: Today NAACP president and CEO Cornell Brooks sought to draw a direct line between a symbol - the Confederate flag - and the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church. Brooks says the country needs to understand what inspired the shooter.


CORNELL BROOKS: It says to us we have to examine the underlying racial animus and racial hate. This was not merely a mass shooting, not merely a matter of gun violence. This was a racial hate crime and must be confronted as such.

BRADY: Brooks says changing an atmosphere where racism exists requires confronting signs of hate.


BROOKS: And that means certainly symbolically, we cannot have the Confederate flag waving in the state capitol.


BRADY: South Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Sanford addressed the issue on MSNBC, pointing out some people have a very different view of what the Confederate flag symbolizes.


MARK SANFORD: But if I was talk to other folks, you know, they'd say, wait a minute, my great-great-grandfather, you know, died in the battle of Bull Run and for me, it's a symbol of either state's rights or of the loss that was felt within our family. So it's a very, very complex issue within our state.

BRADY: The last time South Carolina debated the flag a decade-and-a-half back, it was so contentious, it made national headlines. And moving the flag now would require action from state legislature. Governor Nikki Haley said on CBS that she doesn't want to begin another debate now, but she's certain South Carolina will take up this issue again.


NIKKI HALEY: And there will be policy discussions, and you will hear me come out and talk about it, but right now I am not doing that to the people of my state.

BRADY: Haley said she's focused instead on helping people heal after this week's church shooting. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Charleston, S.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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